Cabling in suspended ceilings

Q: In Section 6, "Telecommunications Closets," of the Telecommunications Distribution Methods Manual (tdmm) of bicsi (Tampa, FL), it states that "false ceilings are NOT [their emphasis] permitted." Section 7, "Equipment Rooms," only says that the height from finished floor to finished ceiling should be at least 81/2 feet. I could not find a similar prohibition about false ceilings in an equipment room.

Q: In Section 6, "Telecommunications Closets," of the Telecommunications Distribution Methods Manual (tdmm) of bicsi (Tampa, FL), it states that "false ceilings are NOT [their emphasis] permitted." Section 7, "Equipment Rooms," only says that the height from finished floor to finished ceiling should be at least 81/2 feet. I could not find a similar prohibition about false ceilings in an equipment room.

I have a client who, for aesthetic reasons, is asking for a suspended ceiling in his equipment room. But if there is much activity above the ceiling, the aesthetics will suffer from broken or missing ceiling tiles. We will be on raised access floor. If we have adequate headroom (minimum 81/2 feet) above the finished floor, is there a technical reason not to install a suspended ceiling?

Scot Shaw

BellSouth Telecommunications

Brentwood, TN

A: Have you ever heard the saying, "But we`ve always done it this way"? The prohibition against false ceilings in telecommunications spaces falls into this category, dating back to the days when telecommunications was to be heard and not seen.

The practice of not putting ceiling tiles in these spaces is not without some merit. We tend to forget what we can`t see--all the pipes above the ceiling, for instance. And, broken and soiled ceiling tiles can result when the ceiling area must be opened and used repeatedly. Today, however, some things have changed. Equipment rooms are full of data equipment that information systems personnel are constantly rearranging. Many clients require that these spaces be more aesthetically pleasing.

The following is my opinion: bicsi`s tdmm, in Chapter 6, "General Requirements for All Telecommunications Closets," states that "False ceilings are not permitted in telecommunications closets" because ansi/eia/tia-569, "Commercial Building Standards for Telecommunications Pathways and Spaces" (Oct. 1990), Section 7.2.4.3, states: "False ceilings shall not be provided." The bicsi tdmm, obviously, follows closely the ansi/tia/eia family of telecommunications building wiring standards.

The TR4-1.8.3 working group discussed changing "shall" to "should" at the December 1996 meeting, but such a change requires a majority vote (greater than two-thirds) to pass. The show of hands was about 60% for change and 40% for the provision to remain as it is. Hence, the new edition of the standard, tia/eia-569a, approved for publication at the February 1997 meeting, will also prohibit suspended ceilings in TCs.

Perhaps the prohibition will be removed in tia/eia-569b. Until then, I suggest that you evaluate each situation, use your own good judgment and explain your decision to your client. Donna Ballast is a communications analyst at the University of Texas at Austin and a bicsi registered communications distribution designer (rcdd). Questions can be sent to her at Cabling Installation & Maintenance or at PO Drawer 7580, University of Texas, Austin, TX 78713; tel: (512) 471-0112, fax: (512) 471-8883, e-mail: ballast@utexas.edu.

Donna Ballast is a communications analyst at the University of Texas at Austin and a bicsi registered communications distribution designer (rcdd). Questions can be sent to her at Cabling Installation & Maintenance or at PO Drawer 7580, University of Texas, Austin, TX 78713; tel: (512) 471-0112, fax: (512) 471-8883, e-mail: ballast@utexas.edu.

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